By Nathan Nwakamma
The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Bayelsa says the ‘astronomical’ rise in cost of the Bayelsa Cargo Airport from N40 to N80 billion is worrisome and a waste of public funds.
The APC said that the reaction of Bayelsa Government to its allegation on the project was a failed attempt to divert attention from obvious lack of fiscal discipline and prudence by the state government.
The party said that “serious issues of accountability, due process and democratic governance” raised in its Nov. 15 statement regarding the airport project was never addressed.
Mr Doifie Buokoribo, the APC Publicity Secretary in Bayelsa, said in a statement in Yenagoa on Monday that the state government had carefully avoided the critical concerns raised by the party.
The party said that by the diversionary response, the Dickson government had only confirmed the allegation, stressing that “Governor Dickson is guilty as charged.”
The APC had criticised the Bayelsa Government for borrowing from the money market at the current high interest rate and described it as a ploy to siphon public funds.
It alleged that the high interest of N62 billion to be paid on the N80 billion loan would stifle the state of funds through the monthly repayment obligations in the next eight years.
It said that the project lacked vital intermodal network for easy accessibility.
The APC said that the N80 billion project was inflated and described it as “clearly the most expensive airport project in Nigeria.”
Buokoribo said that Bayelsa Government’s response was silent on the economic viability of funding such a capital intensive project from the money market at huge interest rates.
“The Bayelsa State Government’s reaction to our statement of Nov. 15, 2018, on the Bayelsa Airport scam did not address any of the issues we raised. This is unfortunate, but understandable.
“Unfortunate because the government is attempting to divert the attention of the Bayelsa populace from the serious issues of accountability, due process and democratic governance.
“These concerns underscore our party’s intervention. We said the airport project is a fraud. We said at more than N80 billion, it is grossly inflated.
“We said the airport project is a deliberate cover by Gov. Seriake Dickson to launder state’s funds. We have no reason whatsoever to change our well thought-out position.
“Rather than address the concerns we raised, Gov. Dickson, through his Information Commissioner, chose to abuse our party and its leaders.
“The APC is a party of serious-minded people. We are not in competition with anyone as to who will emerge best in exchange of insults and abuse. We are focused on a better life for all the people of Bayelsa State,” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that Bayelsa Commissioner for Information, Mr Daniel Iworiso-Markson, had during an inspection tour of the airport in August, put the cost at N90 billon.
In his reaction, Iworiso-Markson said the past administration in the state failed to give the people the desperately needed international airport between 2007 and 2011.
Iworiso-Markson said that the Gov. Timipriye Syla-led administration (now in APC) failed to build an airport in spite of the huge resources at the disposal of his administration.
According to him, the past administration used what should have been a laudable idea of an airport project to milk the state and siphoned billions of naira into private pockets.
The commissioner challenged the APC to tell Bayelsa people and Nigerians what the former governor did with N300 billion agriculture loan the state took from the World Bank.
According to him, the past administration also frittered away the N3 billion Millennium Development Goal (MDG) funds made available to the state and foisted a bond obligation of N125 billion on the state.